Julia Merkel, R+V Insurance – Human Resources

Human Resources: Mrs. Merkel, you have been with R+V Versicherung for a long time. What do you like about the business area?
Julia Merkel:
Insurance companies also assume social responsibility. I chose R+V because of the orientation of its commercial policy. The insurer is committed to its cooperative roots and values. For example, it supports employees committed to society or the environment, and is based on the experience of the cooperative network of Volksbanks and sister companies, which it strengthens in the area of ​​financial services. Furthermore, the insurance business is particularly interesting: What situations does it make sense to cover and how can they be projected and calculated for the future? I am fascinated by the high level of diverse knowledge in the industry, and how professionally the complexity arising from rising inflation, low interest rate policy and the effects of climate change is handled.

What HR projects are you currently working on?
One of the biggest HR projects right now is the “New Normal” program. Here, R+V is designing a new, future-proof work environment for field and office staff with strong employee involvement. We have defined two to four work-at-home days per week as possible to do justice to our clients and to be able to work together successfully in teams. However, individual teams independently decide on the exact layout as needed. That is why we are simultaneously investing in expanding the home office and redesigning our offices as meeting and collaboration spaces.

The theme of interior design is currently occupying many HR managers. What are your findings?
We need more space for creative collaboration, more opportunities for encounters. We take technology to the best possible level to professionalize hybrid cooperation. With modern media technology, such as suitable monitors, cameras and microphones, we optimize the audio and video transmission in the rooms. We equip our employees in a highly professional way for hybrid work, also for the home office. We have switched to Microsoft 365. Microsoft Teams, Conceptboard or TEDME have become common collaboration tools. And we are rethinking the topic of leadership: What skills will be important in the future? In all this, we rely on the self-management of the teams. They themselves develop their new work using a team compass, the framework conditions are set and they can move flexibly within them. In addition, we are expanding support services for preventive health and for reconciling family, work and private responsibilities.

With the different professional seasons, you often changed industries at the same time. Was that planned from the beginning?
I didn’t know from the start that I would have the opportunity to learn about such a wide range of industries and it wasn’t planned that way. I had planned to study, do a job abroad, develop further in my job and as a person and remain open to how and in what context I can make a good contribution to the company. I have been able to gain exciting and valuable experience in all industries, which is useful for a change of perspective and new solutions in the different professional contexts.

Do you think having a workstation abroad is a necessity these days?
A destination abroad has always been a personal and professional enrichment for me. It brings with it an increased openness to new things, personal experiences, friendships, language skills, and an understanding of other cultures and work cultures. In this sense, I would recommend a stay abroad to everyone. Managers leading international teams in particular acquire important cross-cultural skills during their time abroad. In this regard, a posting abroad is definitely a big plus on your CV and provides experience, but of course it also depends on your career aspirations.

What did you take away from your time in Tokyo?
In addition to a year of exchange in the US and a longer assignment in France, I worked for a year at the Japanese trading company Mitsukoshi in Tokyo, a time I remember fondly and still benefit from. On the one hand, I was particularly impressed by the huge customer orientation: Mitsukoshi already had a CRM system in place in the 1990s. And there was a very different form of leadership. Despite the traditional and lived hierarchies, there were many short team meetings per day with good and fast coordination and a lot of sharing.

How would you describe your resume in three adjectives?
Varied, agile to learn, international.

Julia Merkel’s tabular resume. (Photo: Human Resources Management/April issue)

It is the human resource management publisher and is particularly responsible for cross-distribution of content. His main topics are employer branding, human resources software, and company health management.

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